Niagara Falls

by Régis François Gignoux (1816–1882)
Oil on canvas
9 7/8 x 20 7/8 inches
Signed lower left: R. Gignoux


Provenance Alexander Gallery, New York, New York


Galleries Maurice Sternberg, Chicago, Important American Art, 1850–1950, January 21–March 22, 2010

Related Works Niagara, The Table Rock–Winter, ca. 1847, oil on canvas, 52½ x 36⅛ inches, signed lower right: R. Gignoux.; United States Capitol Building, Senate Wing, Washington, DC

Niagara Falls, 1855, oil on canvas, 47¾ x 72¼ inches; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia Niagara at Moonlight; Location unknown, reproduced in Harper’s Weekly, July 9, 1859, 436.

After immigrating to the United States from his native France in 1840, Régis François Gignoux became entranced by the grandeur of the American landscape and devoted his career to capturing its most powerful sites in paint. Niagara Falls exerted a particularly strong hold on the artist, and he attempted to capture its sublime scope in several paintings. His most famous rendition, Niagara Falls in Winter (1848), is prominently installed in the Senate Wing of the U.S. Capitol building. Our painting, Niagara Falls, depicts Terrapin Tower and Horseshoe Falls from Goat Island, a significant site developed by Peter and Augustus Porter in the early nineteenth century. The Porters, owners of the American falls and the surrounding Goat Island, built a 300 yard-long wooden pier upon the turtle-shaped rocks (hence the name Terrapin) in the 1820’s, adding a 45 foot-tall tower and extended observation deck in the 1830’s.[i] Gignoux highlights both developments, using them to anchor the sublimity of the scene—solid, man-made structures in the midst of swiftly-moving rapids, great sprays of mist, and an emerging rainbow. The painting combines the naturalistic detail that provoked the art critic Henry Tuckerman to remark: “it has been said that some of [Gignoux’s winter scenes] are so truthful that they would almost allure a snow bunting from the sky,” with the atmospheric nuance that distinguished his landscapes. As Tuckerman continues:   Gignoux has made a study of American scenery under every aspect; he has observed nature in the     New World with reference to the modifying influence of the seasons…has proved felicitous in his true rendering of atmosphere, sky, and vegetation, as they are changed in tone, color, and effect by       vernal, summer, autumnal, and wintry agencies.[ii] Niagara Falls conveys the grandeur of the site in the sharp descent of the flumes, the velocity of the currents, and the perilous passage of the figure on the footbridge—his smallness emphasizing the immensity of his surroundings. The painting captures the lyrical beauty of the falls while subtly establishing its patriotic character—a symbol of America’s vast natural splendor and expanding territorial prowess. It was decided that Gignoux would become a landscape painter well before he reached the United States. Upon seeing one of his landscape sketches, Paul-Hippolyte Delaroche, his teacher at the École des Beaux-Arts, advised: “you are strong here;—be a landscape painter,” and so it was determined.[iii] After moving to New York in 1840, Gignoux quickly established himself within the leading Hudson River School circles of the time. He worked alongside Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt, and John Frederick Kensett at the famed Tenth Street Studio Building and exhibited at the National Academy of Design, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Paris Salon. As his reputation expanded, he attracted important patrons, including Charles Gould, Baron Rothschild, and the Earl of Ellesmere, and students, including George Inness, and eventually served as the first president of the Brooklyn Art Association. Today, his paintings are in the collections of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the New York Historical Society, and the Georgia Museum of Art. JK:ajc

[i] Information gathered from

[ii] Henry R. Tuckerman, Book of the Artists (New York: James Carr Publishers, 1967, first published in 1867), 509.

[iii] Tuckerman, 508.

Artist Biography

A French-born landscape artist best-known for his snow scenes.

By Chelsea DeLay

I. Biography
II. Chronology
III. Collections
IV. Exhibitions
V. Memberships
VI. Suggested Resources

I. Biography

Régis François Gignoux was born in Lyons, France, in 1816. At the age of nineteen, Gignoux enrolled as a student at the École des Beaux-Arts where he trained under the renowned history painter Paul-Hipployte Delaroche; under his instruction, Gignoux excelled at painting romantic landscape scenes. Gignoux immigrated to the United States in 1840 and settled in Brooklyn, New York. He

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